White lightning. Mountain dew. Moonshine. When you think of Appalachia, you might think of this clear, unaged whiskey, associated with illegal stills and running from “revenuers” trying to catch renegade moonshiners.
Today, there’s not a revenuer in sight. You can sip moonshine legally and take it home as a souvenir. Times have changed, but the love for this potent drink hasn’t.
Scots-Irish settlers brought their traditional distilling methods with them when they came here in the 1700s. By the early 1800s, a new tax on spirits pushed home-distillers underground to avoid taxes. Prohibition increased demand for “white lightning” and sealed its place in legend.
Moonshine remained illegal until 2009. Then, distilleries popped up to quench the thirst of locals and visitors. Moonshine takes well to other flavors, and you can drink everything from cinnamon or coffee moonshine to flavors like margarita, bacon, or bananas. Here are six distilleries where you can taste the tradition:
1. OLD FORGE DISTILLERY
The Old Forge uses grain ground in Pigeon Forge’s historic Old Mill. The signature drink is named for the year the mill was built: 1830 Original Miller’s Blend. While you’re soaking up history, taste flavors including French toast, lemon, and coffee.
2. TENNESSEE SHINE COMPANY
Crafting small-batch moonshine, this distillery’s many flavors include a uniquely Tennessee treat: Moon Pie moonshine, with flavors of the state’s classic snack (marshmallow sandwiched between chocolate-covered, round graham crackers). Enjoy a Moon Pie moonshine while nibbling a Moon Pie, for the full Smokies experience.
3. OLE SMOKY MOONSHINE
With locations in both Gatlinburg and Pigeon forge, Ole Smoky’s is always nearby. Taste straight and flavored moonshines, take home their new canned cocktails, and try the maraschino cherries, sliced peaches, or dill pickles—each packed in moonshine for snacking with a kick.
4. JUNCTION 35 SPIRITS
Check out the moonshines, then stay to eat. Junction 35 Spirits distillery, which also makes a range of rum, gin, vodka, and whiskey, has a restaurant with slow-cooked BBQ, burgers, and more, plus a colorful range of cocktails.
5. SUGARLANDS DISTILLING COMPANY
Blueberry Muffin, Maple Bacon—the flavors of breakfast in a Mason jar, but maybe better suited to lunchtime! Sugarlands serves up these and more, like peppermint or PB&J. Book a private tour to learn how they make their moonshine magic.